The battle for fourth spot or higher on the Super Rugby Pacific table is well and truly on, with the Blues (4th) and Hurricanes (5th) both vying for an all-important home quarterfinal berth.
The stats back up just how close this contest promises to be with 39 previous meetings in Super Rugby competition resulting in 19 wins a-piece and one draw between the two sides. The Blues have the edge at home in recent times, having logged a victory against the Hurricanes in the previous two encounters at Eden Park.
This weekend the Blues front row is bolstered by the return of Ofa Tuungafasi and Nepo Laulala in an otherwise unchanged pack. Meanwhile, Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane slot back into the starting lineup with Bryce Heem and Harry Plummer shifting in a spot to accommodate Beauden Barrett’s All Blacks rest week.
Blues Head Coach Leon MacDonald said the team look forward to these New Zealand derby matches and the intensity they bring.
“These weeks are what rugby is all about – as a team you’re preparing for a tough, uncompromising battle in the knowledge it’s likely to be small margins and moments determining the outcome on Saturday,” said MacDonald.
“Our focus is on stacking good performances together. I thought we created space and time really well against the Reds and want more of the same taking on the Hurricanes. Our destiny’s in our hands and we need to push hard in this final phase of the round robin.”
Blues Captain Patrick Tuipulotu said the team are lying in wait for the Hurricanes and take pride in defending their home turf.
“Eden Park’s our home, our fortress and it’s up to us to defend it with honour,” said Tuipulotu.
“Look at the table, one point separates us and we’re both gunning for a home quarterfinal spot. We love it when the fans turn up in numbers and we’re hoping for a bumper crowd on Saturday night.”
MacDonald echoed the thoughts of Tuipulotu, calling on Blues fans to fill the stands.
“The boys really feed off the energy and excitement of a big crowd. You can sense it in the sheds before we run out - it might just be that extra one percent we need this weekend.”
Blues team to face the Hurricanes:
1: Ofa Tuungafasi
2: Ricky Riccitelli
3: Nepo Laulala
4: Patrick Tuipulotu (c)
5: Cameron Suafoa
6: Akira Ioane
7: Adrian Choat
8: Hoskins Sotutu
9: Finlay Christie
10: Harry Plummer
11: Caleb Clarke
12: Bryce Heem
13: Rieko Ioane
14: Mark Telea
15: Zarn Sullivan
Reserves: Kurt Eklund, Jordan Lay, Marcel Renata, James Tucker,Anton Segner,Sam Nock, Stephen Perofeta, AJ Lam/Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens